Adoption, My Story

Racial Diversity: From Minimal to More

The Great North…

Living in a Minnesotan suburb and attending a private liberal arts college ‘up there’ meant I had a diversity culture shock when I moved to a university town in Central Illinois. It’s not that where I lived in Minnesota had no racial diversity, but what I thought was diverse, was actually just a few non-white people here and there. My college was really pushing to increase diversity on our campus and also raise awareness of bigger issues pertaining to the subject. While I was there a new program began, the Racial Reconciliation Studies program. I thought this was pretty cool and listened from afar as people talked about the importance of such a program. I even felt like I was automatically walking as racially aware because my values were in-line with what the school was teaching and I didn’t disagree. But I was wrong.

Just South of Chicago…

When I moved to my current university town, I was amazed at how many different people groups there were all around me! My time in Illinois showed me how much I had been missing and also clued me into what my husband, Putty grew up around – him being from a Chicago suburb. In fact, Putty teased me a bit when he realized some of my earliest comments about diversity were leaning towards amazement at the level of diversity around me. He said, “Brittany, this is like where I went to elementary and secondary school and grew up. It’s not that abnormal actually.” I took that comment in and realized that there was so much more that I didn’t know!

Racial Reconciliation…

After we decided on a church to attend, I joined the Racial Reconciliation meetings held on Sunday mornings. I was so glad to be in a diverse group and meet new people and learn new things. I quickly came to realize that a lot of the racial reconciliation I was encountering seemed to be mostly between the African Americans and whites, and not as much between other races. I heard people share their hurts and couldn’t believe that they had endured certain prejudices through their lives. I couldn’t believe that some of it was still happening either! Hadn’t we grown out of this as a country? Well, I guess I was getting my diversity education after all.

As the years have gone by, my eyes have been opened to more of the racial injustices and inequalities in the world. I am saddened to learn about them, both past and present. But this learning is also a part of growing up, maturing, and entering into society. I was protected from a lot of what was going on in the nation and around the world because I was young and focused on studying, but now my focus has widened. My ears are opened and so are my eyes.

Sometimes People will Assume…

Case in point: As I was sharing a particular insecurity with a non-white friend, she said that sometimes I was just going to be seen in a way that’s not the truth of who I really am on the inside or for the true motivations of my heart. Sometimes people will make assumptions about me based on their perceptions without really coming to understand the heart of who I am. … And then I got it. This is what my non-white friends, family, neighbors, classmates, workmates, and strangers have had to come to terms with early in life. They learned at a young age that, “Some people are just going to treat you badly… because of your skin color/race.”

I didn’t have to learn that growing up. No one cautioned me that people would treat me differently because of my skin color. Instead, I was taught not to treat others differently because of their skin color. When I was cautioned that some people might think badly of me without cause, it was due to my beliefs, my actions, or my preferences, but not my skin color. 

Be the Change for the Future…

Although there are strides to make it better, it is sad that it’s still a part of our reality at all. I want to be a part of positive change for the future. I want my actions and words to be laced in love and understanding. I want my inner thoughts to be first thinking the best about people, not assuming the worst. And in regards to a transracial adoption, I want my child to experience the same positive openness that I seek to give to all those around me.

One way I’m doing this currently is by reading and listening to a lot of media about transracial adoption. The books, blogs, and podcasts have opened my eyes to so many more factors involved in the everyday life of non-white children. Often, I’m amazed at the wealth of cultural diversity displayed by all these different people groups and then other times I’m so filled with sorrow at the negative aspects of racial prejudice in our society. I’m encouraged when I hear about the ways that people have made changes and triumphed over these negative situations. It helps me learn how I can be a part of the change, by acting in a way that’s always honoring of all people groups and just by loving the person in front of me without taking skin color into effect. Each individual is a person to be treated with the utmost respect just from the simple fact that we are all created by God who loves us each as His fabulous child.

Past Participation

As I reflect more, I am encouraged to realize that even though I didn’t know how much I was missing in the racial arena years ago, I have consistently taken strides to be involved in interracial groups. As I mentioned before, I joined our Racial Reconciliation Group at church to be a part of positive change in my community. But, I also was heavily involved in an International Group and even shared the Director role with my husband for a time. We had wonderful opportunities to be deeply involved in with Chinese & Korean individuals. When I look back on my time with this group of people, my heart feels such warmth of love and gratitude. We were immediately welcomed to participate in the cultural celebrations and meals with our East Asian friends. It was fascinating, fun, and filled with joy.

Mandarin Tutors & Students

Even though we’re not directly involved with this ministry anymore, God hasn’t stopped tugging at my heart to keep learning about different cultures and valuing the different parts of these groups. We traveled to three European countries in the last year and got to see how even within our white-to-white interactions there, we had so much diversity. Actually, Brussels had a lot of diversity outside of our common European ancestry due to it being an international city. My heart is inspired to continue to love those around me, celebrate the unique traditions that make each of us part of our own cultures, and learn, learn, learn!

How Are You Learning?

I am making steps and strides towards a greater understanding of racial diversity. Sometimes it might seem like it’s slow going, but there’s great encouragement when I see that it’s not stagnant. What about you? In what ways have you worked towards greater racial diversity – whether in learning or participate – in your life? I’d LOVE to hear what’s moved you forward in this area in the past and present.

Adoption, family, God, My Story

Could This Be Our Match?


It was a Wednesday afternoon. The kids had just come home from school when I saw an email from our adoption agency. They had an expectant mother they’d be showing family profiles to in the next week and they wanted to show ours to her. Our criteria fit her situation very nicely, the only problem… we weren’t done with our profile book yet! Actually, we weren’t even close.

I quickly forwarded the email to my husband, Putty, with only one word in the message, “Read!!!!!” To say I was a little excited would be an understatement. The experience of this, our first message about a potential match, jolted my being into a heightened sense of anticipation. But it quickly crashed. Even after forwarding the email for Putty to read, I knew that realistically we couldn’t pull this thing together. I was already preparing myself to hear him say, “No, it’s not possible to get it done in time.” 

Well, he got home from work and I eventually brought up the email. Instead of giving him a chance to dash my hopes with realism, I said that as exciting as it would be, maybe we should let them know that we won’t be able to have the book done in time. He agreed.

Shutterfly offers a digital program to make a book as well as other photo sites

That night, I had to talk to God about this possible match. I could tell I really longed to make everything work out so that we could present a profile book to this mother along with the other families’ books. I wanted to be picked and be on our way with preparing for our new addition. (It’s a little like when you’re trying to get pregnant and you think and hope you might be pregnant, but it’s too early to take a pregnancy test.) 

What I heard from God wasn’t what I wanted to hear. I very clearly felt like He was saying this wasn’t the match for us. Even though it was exciting, I shouldn’t get connected to this match because it wasn’t His choice for us. My heart was sad, but I also felt peaceful about it. I know that it’s better not to rush into things, and if we finished our book to present to this expectant mother, we would definitely be rushing and ‘making things happen’ on our own.


Each Friday we make a plan for what we need to accomplish that weekend, what we want to accomplish, and what would be fun to accomplish that weekend. The Friday following the adoption match email was no different. We started adding things to our list so we could discuss and make decisions on how this weekend would look for us. It was apparent to us that we needed a weekend that wasn’t filled with tons of stuff to do. We have had a lot of busy weekends with more to come, so we left a lot of space open.

I suddenly realized that I never emailed back our adoption agency about the potential match. I dragged myself to my computer to carry out my assigned task of responding to them. I wasn’t looking forward to telling them, “No, not this time,” but I knew I had to. I let them know where we were at in the process of finishing our profile book and said we’d be working on it in case they wanted to share about our family even without being able to show the book. We definitely planned to finish it, we just couldn’t do it so quickly. 

With that email sent, we continued to finish off the things on our list. It all went pretty quickly and Putty realized he felt a bit of creative energy building to work on the adoption profile. So, that afternoon he went to a coffee shop to work on the design of the book from the plan he had worked out weeks earlier. I had the fun task of going through all our photos and uploading relevant ones to a digital album where he could access them and use them in the book. I loved going through our family photos from over the years and looking at each photo to see what ones would tell the best story from a first glance. But more than that, I was excited that we were once again moving forward on our adoption process. 


True to our need, we took a slow Saturday morning. The kids played on screens which gave us extra time to sleep and do devotional time and reading. It was soooo needed and really recharged us. We called the kids up from screen time and got breakfast out for them. Putty was doing some Bible time and so, we didn’t see him at the breakfast table. Eventually he told me he wanted to ‘just take a little more time’ on the adoption profile book. I definitely was happy to give him as much time as he wanted. So, as his creative energy flowed, I kept the kids (and myself) occupied. 

As time went by, I started to wonder if Putty had eaten breakfast without me knowing it. He really seemed to be working on this book for a long time. Surely, he had taken a quick break to get a bit of nourishment and then headed back to his design work. The hours came and went and I began lunch preparation. That’s when Putty called me to see what he had done. He had practically finished the book! He looked at the clock and couldn’t believe his eyes! “Is it really time for lunch already? I just worked through breakfast! I didn’t realize I had been doing this for so long.”

It was pretty surprising. After planning our weekend to have some slow times, we seemed to fill it with working on the profile after all. The slow time and the motivation from Wednesday’s email, seemed to be just what we needed to make a big dent in this huge project.


By Sunday evening, we were ready to put the finishing touches on our Family Adoption Profile. We finalized which photos we were going to use, we tightened up some of our text and reviewed our work. I was in awe of this book that came together so quickly over the weekend. A weekend we hadn’t planned to use in this way and a project that we didn’t want to rush. As we pressed ORDER, I was so thankful for the way this all worked out for us! Because the work came out of rest, it wasn’t rushed and we weren’t depleted by it. We really made something we were proud of and will one day be very happy to share with our adopted child. 

Front Cover of our Profile Book

This book really synthesized what our family is about. We got a chance to reflect on this crazy journey of the Putman family and put into words and photos all that’s come about since we said, ‘I do’ 14.5 years ago. Our family is filled with adventure, love, family, fun, friends hope, community, and above all of that a desire to follow hard after God. It made me take notice of how many opportunities we’ve had for travel, international relationships, and cultural diversity. I reflected on the family and friends in our lives and feel so grateful for the support and love all around us! From all this, we created something that shares the broad overview of our current life in a really neatly designed, compact package.

So, this time I couldn’t wait to email our adoption agency again. “We finished our adoption profile book! But, unfortunately, they won’t arrive until the following week. So, we won’t have them this week. We’ll leave it up to you if you’d like to show us to this expectant mother or pass this time around.” I hadn’t heard anything since our last email sent on Friday, so I was interested to see if there was any way we could still be shown to this mother.

However, I still had the feeling that this wasn’t the baby God had for us. I tried to rationalize that maybe I didn’t hear God correctly and was trying to help myself feel better about not having a profile book ready. This was on Friday. I tried to rationalize that maybe God really was trying to keep us from rushing, and now we hadn’t. So, maybe He’ll work it out so that we can be shown (and chosen) after all! This was on Sunday. Still, on Monday I shared with Putty that I wasn’t sure this was supposed to be and I asked if he’d gotten any sense. He hadn’t really prayed specifically about this one because it was so early in the process and the mother hadn’t even chosen us at this point. That made a lot of sense-wait until there’s more details before trying to plan everything.


Well, Monday came and went. No email from our agency. On Tuesday morning I got the email I had been waiting for. It seemed like even if we had been able to get our profile in for the proper week, the birth mother wanted to look at families immediately and had already made her choice on Thursday. We were out of the running before the race even began!  I felt a mix of emotions. I was sad because I had hoped that maybe this would be it. Maybe it really would be ‘this easy and quick.’ This news hit me a little bit like when you think you’re pregnant and then realize one way or another that you actually aren’t. So, it’s onto the next cycle of waiting and hoping.

At the same time, I was relieved. I’m glad to know so quickly that it wasn’t going to work out and I could let go of that hope for this time and maintain waiting on God for our child. I was encouraged too. This was confirmation that I had heard God correctly. Time and again I seem to need affirmation that I hear God’s voice correctly and this was another of those instances. I also felt thankful that God didn’t have our agency respond to us until after we finished our profile. Honestly, this whole bunch of excitement coupled with the let down was worth it because it got us moving on the adoption profile book and lit a fire under me once again to keep pressing into the adoption process. What a big weight off our shoulders to be done with such a big step in this process. 

The Following Wednesday…

So, what’s next? Well, I’m writing this blog and reflecting on how this past week has affected my thinking, feeling, and actions. The holiday season really put the adoption process on hold as so many other things took priority, but now it’s over. Now, my mind and heart are feeling the familiar tug of growing our family. I’m excited to keep learning about interracial adoption, adoption in general, and waiting with anticipation for our adoption match.

We still don’t know the definite way that our adoption match will come, but we’re trusting God and asking Him to lead the process. Maybe we’ll be matched through our small agency (Illini Christian Ministries), maybe we’ll be matched through an adoption attorney or larger agency, or maybe there’ll be some sort of connection made through our personal contacts. We don’t know, but we trust that God does and in that trust we will remain steady and full of hope and anticipation.

Last Page of our Profile Book
Adoption, God, My Story

Truth Among Questions

Unexpected News

I saw her clench her arms around her stomach and double over. She leaned into the wall behind her and slid down to a sitting position. She looked like she was in pain. She was crying and almost seemed oblivious to the fact that I was clearly able to see her. I asked God if she was sick because that’s the only thing that made sense to me. I wondered if I needed to help her in some way or just stay out of the way. 

Then, I clearly sensed Him tell me that she was pregnant and it was unexpected. She had just found out and the news was overwhelming to her. She didn’t know what she was going to do. All the questions came at her. What will her parents say? What will her friends say? What will she do about this? Who can she trust with this information? Who will help her? 

Immediately, I started to pray for this woman, and not just her, but all women who find themselves in this situation. I pray that they would have the Holy Spirit’s comfort. I pray for people to come around them and help them through this unexpected turn of events. I pray that God will give them grace to choose life over death for the baby. I pray that their fear will give way to hope. I pray that they can see the sunshine through this rain. I pray for peace to drive out all the overwhelming feelings. I pray for Jesus’ perfect peace to rest on their minds and bring clear-thinking to them.

Why didn’t I go over to her, you may be asking. Well, God was speaking to me in a dream. I wasn’t physically in the same place as this person. I don’t even know if she is real, but what she represents is very real. The sense that God was calling me to pray was very real. It was an intense moment to cry out for women who are pregnant with a child that for one reason or another they can’t keep. A child whose very life is in the hands of its momma. 

Questions and Lies…

As I’ve waded through my decisions regarding what type of adoption process we should head towards, I have reflected a lot about WHY we are choosing private adoption. Is it just because WE want it? Does it seem to be selfish? Is it just the ‘easy way out’? Why would we choose this option instead of just having another biological child or adopting a child who’s already in existence? Why are we putting our hat in the same ring as so many couples who can’t conceive? We aren’t infertile, so are we taking away another person’s chance to adopt? It just doesn’t always make sense.

These are very real and hard questions to face. It puts me looking straight into the eyes of a lot of self-revelation. My people-pleaser part starts to rear its head. It says, ‘You should be doing what most people will approve of.’ Don’t most people think that an adoptive couple with biological children should only adopt orphans or kids that would have the hardest time finding a family? 

‘This is the easy way to adopt,’ lies the idol of comfort. It might seem that way, but, no. This is not any easier than other adoption processes. There is still plenty of hard stuff.

My competitive side shares another untruth, ‘Why are you competing with infertile couples for children? Don’t you know that there’s only so many babies and that you’re ‘taking’ one from a couple who REALLY wants a child?’ Am I really intentionally taking away the chance for another couple to experience parenting?

Answers & Truth…

I have to decide should I approach my adoption experience with all these other considerations in mind? It’s taken some time, but God made it clear that I need to listen to Him. I’ve written about this before, but don’t you know that the old patterns try to keep creeping in. So, I once again find myself reminding me what God said. God made it clear to adopt through private domestic adoption. He’s reminded me that my adoption process might not look the same as the other people I know who have adopted. He’s reminded me to be secure in Him and His plan for us.

As I reflect more on this, He’s shown me some other things that help me stay in the mindset of keeping God’s plan first rather than the opinions of others. He’s shown me something for each member of the adoption triad: birth parents, adoptive parents, and the child placed for adoption.

Adoptive Parents (Us)…

First, God knows what my family can handle right now. He knows our schedule (present and future) and He knows each of our specific capacities in life. He has led us to private domestic adoption because He knows that it’s what is BEST for our family right now. So, the people-pleaser lie can stand down.

Child to be Adopted

Second, a newborn placed for adoption has no choice in where he/she will grow up. But that doesn’t mean this child isn’t thought about by God. God knows what family will be good for each child. It could be possible that the best place for any given child is with our family and that makes my perceived ‘competition’ with infertile couples irrelevant. It’s not competition, it’s about finding a home for the child and I trust God to help with that decision regardless of who’s in the pool of families to choose from. The competitive lie can stand down.

Birth Mother/Expectant Mother…

Lastly, the Birth Mother, or expectant mother (pre-birth), has been on my mind a lot more than I anticipated. The more I’ve learned about different stories and scenarios that prompt some expectant mothers to make adoption plans, the more I seem to be putting myself into their shoes. What an incredibly hard decision this must be! And even if it’s an obvious choice to make a plan for adoption, the expectant mother is still sacrificing by allowing her baby to grow in her and be birthed through her! This is an incredible gift made by ANY biological mother. 

What really comes to mind is how big of a choice the expectant mother is making when she chooses the parents of her unborn child. This mother is shown family profiles and then she can meet a few of the people to see how well they connect. Ultimately, she is the one who chooses the parents-to-be for her baby. This is hard stuff!

I realize that what I can give to an expectant mother before she even chooses the adoptive parents is a choice. I can give her my family as a choice for her baby. Without prospective adoptive parents doing the hard work to be approved to adopt, the expectant mothers wouldn’t have these families as choices. I’m so glad that what I can first give to a birth mother is another good option for someone to raise her baby. The lie of taking the easy way out can stand down.

Prayer Request…

This is a complicated process. I’ve really enjoyed learning so many more of the ins and outs related to adoption. I am glad that God’s been giving me more compassion towards expectant mothers. I had already felt an innate compassion towards the unborn child, but this is new territory. Please join me in praying for the entire adoption triad as we move forward with our next step in our adoption process – being a good choice for an expectant mother.

family, My Story

Building Family – Family Edition

In 2008, our very good friends moved to California to pursue church planting. It was such a big loss for me. Not only had I lost my framily (friend+family), but the traditions we had established with them disappeared too. Suddenly we found ourselves faced with the dilemma of what to do around the different holidays and especially Christmastime since we didn’t have any family in town. We still traveled to Chicago to see Putty’s family, but we didn’t have our Champaign-based holidays anymore. We had to change with our circumstances and yet again (see previous post), make new holiday traditions.

Dan and I won the big baskets at the Young Adult Easter Egg Hunt at church

Well, wouldn’t you know, Putty’s brother, Dan, ended up moving to Champaign and now we had real, blood family in the same town as us! We included him in as many things as we could and we often had similar friend groups. It was fun to have someone around who was actually related to us! Over the years Dan became an adopted brother to my siblings as well and even accompanied us on a family vacation up North one year.

Of course, we loved having him with us, but part of this trip up North came out of necessity. You see, it costs a lot more to travel to Florida around the holidays than at other times. Sadly, Putty’s parents had to relocate to Florida for Dad Putman’s job just as we were pregnant with our first child. This was a loss for us. Now the family that lived the closest to us became the furthest away family! Once again we were faced with making adjustments to holiday interactions because most of our family was now a bit too far to visit with at this time of year. After working out some new holiday routines, we became comfortable with how things were going.

But, things weren’t going to stay this way for long! When pregnant with our second child a few years later, my brother and sister-in-law started talking with us about moving back to the midwest from Colorado. I so longed to have them nearby, but I knew it was possible they’d move to Minnesota and not Champaign. Joy of joys, they decided to move here! Now we had two brothers and family close by for the holidays and special occasions again! We established our own special ways to celebrate Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter together, not to mention birthdays and other special events. It was great! It took some relational work, but it all came together so nicely.

A year later, my mother moved to town and yet again we made adjustments as we included her in our local celebrations and figured out how to participate in travel and visits with the family that still lived in other parts of the country. I couldn’t believe it, though. In two years I had 4 more people move to our town (brother, sister-in-law, niece, and mother)! What a delightful change! I actually had family living near me! I never would have guessed that this would happen. There was nothing besides us, in Champaign to draw our family here, except our amazing church! Having more family here was wonderful, but also stressful as we navigated new relationships. Once again, we figured it out.

I didn’t realize how different relational interactions would be between a  ‘visiting relationship’ and a ‘local relationship’ until I had experienced both types with the same person/people. With my Mom and brother’s family, we had to express our expectations to each other in order to figure out what we all wanted from each other since we were so physically close now. Did we want weekly visits or just monthly? Did we expect to see each other on certain holidays or did we want the freedom to travel or just be alone? There was a lot to figure out once again, but we did it! Family was being built little by little, change by change.

However, in 2017 things changed… a lot! We had 13 new family members move to our area and one join by marriage. We gained a sister-in-law when Putty’s brother married his wonderful fiancee. Then in the Fall, within one week of each other, the other two families moved here!  My father- and mother-in-law celebrated retirement and moved to Urbana to be near their sons, daughters-in-law and grandchildren. My sister and her husband moved here with their nine kids too, just around the corner! Within one year, what we had figured out for holiday celebrations with 12 local family members, we now needed to adjust to include 26 local family members! (This year, we welcomed another nephew to our happy crew!)

It was hard. I’m not going to lie. I had two sides of families to manage expectations and give equally to around the holidays. (That was part of the problem right there! I thought I had to manage others’ expectations instead of letting them take responsibility for themselves.) Some people wanted more holiday togetherness than others and that resulted in a lot of stress on my part. What if I end up giving two times the attention to one side of the family and not enough to the other? What if one sibling finds out I spent time with this other sibling in this specific way? Will there be jealousy? And perhaps the most emotionally straining for me, what if the grandparents feel like there’s an unequal balance of time with the kids and harbor resentment? I hoped everyone would tell me what they needed because my mind just made up all sorts of stories otherwise – and usually the worst case scenario!

We tried this. We tried that. We did this celebration, we did that celebration. We included these people for one event. We included the others for another event. It was enough to make my anxiety levels rise. And they did too. I had a lot of swirling thoughts in my mind about what to do. I felt stuck in my decision making – always deferring to what I thought the family members would want and not thinking about what I wanted. When I finally did make a decision, I often ended up second guessing it. I had such hard time differentiating what I needed and what I ‘should’ do for others, that I knew it was time to bring these problems to my counselor.

I’d been seeing a great counselor whose opinion I valued and trusted. He challenged me to sort through my expectations, my stress, and then he helped me learn how to manage it all. With my new tools in place, I worked to understand better how to more naturally build family togetherness and not force it to happen.

We made it through those first two years, but not without some casualties of feelings. It was hard to express our feelings and expectations to each other. It felt really vulnerable, even though these people were family members that I loved so much and generally felt very safe with. I did hold on to one specific hope though – the two year mark. Over the years I came to see a pattern that after about two years there’s a tipping point in new or changed relationships. Things seem to even out and a more natural relationship begins to form. We had seen this repeatedly each time a new family member moved to town. Each time we had to adjust from ‘visiting relationships’ to ‘local relationships’ with every person. I knew this could happen again, even with 14 relationships changing all at once. We could do this!

Finally, this year… THIS YEAR, I noticed the shift for myself, and subsequently ALL MY LOCAL FAMILY.  This year, I felt different heading into the holidays. I felt more settled within myself. That settling helped me think more clearly. Instead of worry, anxiety and uncertainty, I had hope and expectation for the family times we set aside from October through December.

It’s been just over two years since the last people moved here. We’ve all come to know each other so much better over these past two years and we feel so much more at ease with one another. We’ve had hard conversations that have yielded understanding of one another and we’ve been able to build relationally because of them. 

This year, after being inspired by some of Putty’s team-building ideas, I hijacked one of them for our family! Each Sunday from Thanksgiving through Christmas (totaling four), we held a large family movie night in our living room. Everyone came with snack foods for our supper and we all talked together in the kitchen while making up our plates. Then we enthusiastically headed to the living room where we tuned in to the movie for that night. 

Seeing all the cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents choosing to participate together in this event week after week warmed my heart. The feelings of familiarity and ease only grew as we gathered each week. There were so many smiles and hugs and laughs. This year, we hit our stride. This year, our family togetherness soared to a new height and with it, all the holiday events. It leaves me looking forward to next year. I can see how our family has really been built up over these past two years.

You know, I didn’t know in advance how often my holiday ‘traditions’ would end up changing from year to year. I didn’t know that it’d be challenging at times. But, I have discovered that being flexible in this situation was really helpful. I learned that saying the hard things to each other opens us up to grow deeper relationally so that we can actually increase the family togetherness around the holidays. And you know what else? Sometimes it’s okay to throw something completely new into the mix to see if it floats or sinks. No matter which it does, it’ll still create memories. 🙂 

family, My Story

Building Family – Friends Edition

Thinking all was clear, I pulled out to make a right-hand turn from a full stop. Just before I really got going, I saw a vehicle coming my way and quickly pressed the brakes. The driver behind me was already looking at the intersection to make her right turn and didn’t notice that I had suddenly stopped. She hit me at a very slow speed, but still, it totaled my car and gave me a sore neck. This all happened just days before my wedding while moving my things down to my future apartment. Note to everyone, a Chevy Impala can total a Saturn Twin Cam when it hits from behind at 5 or less miles per hour!

As you might expect, I was really excited to marry Putty and start the next part of my life with him! He moved to Champaign a year before I did so that he could begin his graduate program. He lived with three other guys at that time, all friends from childhood who were working towards their undergraduate degrees. When I joined him in my new town after our wedding, I only knew Putty and these three guys. For a girl who chose her college based on proximity to home (I wanted it as close as I could get) I deeply felt the loss of leaving everything familiar behind. I was starting from scratch – no friends, no family. 

This has been a pretty regular part of my life. I’ve ‘started over’ time and time again – but always with family. My first move came the summer before 1st grade. I was heartbroken to leave the only place and people I had ever known. I didn’t know what to expect, but moving is the adults choice and not the child’s choice. We lived in our new town for quite a few years until, in my child’s mind, all chaos broke loose – my parents got divorced.

My kindergarten school class from Owatonna. I’m on the left side resting my chin on my hand.

There were many problems surrounding my parent’s divorce. It was messy and messy in a small town isn’t fun. When I was in 4th grade and after seeking work over and over again, my Mom realized we’d have to move from that smallish town to a larger one just so she could find work and support us. This was the most painful move for me. I had created a new life in this place and most of my formative years were spent in the small community we had around us. It was hard to face moving to a new place, and going from a small private school to a big public school.

Luckily, I was fairly outgoing and made friends easily. I also had family around me, some aunts, an uncle, and cousins. It ended up being a nice time until after a year and half we had to move back to the town where my dad lived because he was diagnosed with cancer. We didn’t know how long he had to live and it was important for us to be near him. I had mixed feelings about this move. I was excited to be near my dad and see my old friends again, but I was sad to leave my new friends and apprehensive about how things would be with a new step-mom, step-sister, church, and school.

This was one of the hardest times in my childhood. Nothing was easy and it was like swimming upstream in the social and family arenas. My friends from before had moved on from me, so it was very much like starting over again. I had trouble being my own person and so I tended to have the same friends as my step-sister who was the same age as me and in the same grade & school as me. There were a few people that were ‘my own’ but it was hard to create a deep relationship with them because they lived in the neighboring towns.

After a year and a half in this location, it was apparent we had to move again. Dad was doing better (Praise the Lord!) and we were doing worse. With all these things in mind, Mom made the choice to move us yet again. I felt like a ping-pong ball between Iowa and Minnesota. We finally settled in Minnesota. We moved to one house for a month and I started the first 2 weeks of 8th grade. Then we got permanent housing on Bethel College’s family housing. Mom started her Master’s degree program while working and I began my new 8th grade class.

All the places I’ve lived and the sequence of moves

We stayed in this school district throughout the remainder of my schooling and when it came time to choose a college, I chose Bethel College. It was close and I had control to stay in this place that was comfortable, safe and familiar. I was at peace and finally found my home. But, as much as I wanted to stay in Minnesota, my fiancee felt it was the right call to move to Champaign for his Doctoral program. So, yet again, I faced the challenge of starting all over again, from scratch.

Putty’s silly/crazy friends I first did life with. Yes, they are all holding knives…

I struggled the first year to really find my place and my ‘people.’ I mostly got to know my colleagues at work and Putty’s already established friend groups. I was still longing for a best friend. I felt lonely a lot and calling my family on the phone wasn’t enough to fill me up. I needed local friends and dare I say, family.

It wasn’t until our realtor suggested we meet her daughter and son-in-law. At first we just dismissed the idea, but she brought it up a few times and that seemed odd. So, eventually we were all able to have a meal together and we really hit it off! In addition, we found out that we lived within walking distance from each other. Over the next few months, our friendship became much more of a family relationship as we began seeing each other regularly and spending time with their local families.

Eventually, not only did these two become our framily (friend+family), but I also became framily with Putty’s childhood friends who were in town. We all became very close. We didn’t have that many opportunities to be with family on every holiday, and definitely not around Christmastime. The cold and sometimes unpredictable weather made it difficult to plan any travel in the winter. And more than that, we wanted to create a tradition of being at home on Christmas morning, so that really meant no traveling around Christmas.

So, we established our own holiday traditions based around our friend groups. We had an annual gingerbread decorating party for a few years that was a blast! We had some very creative displays. Every Christmas Eve we went to our friend’s party to visit with others who were in the area for the holiday and of course, eat good food! The most precious tradition that we only had for a few years, but was so intimate and special, was spending Christmas afternoon at our framily’s house around the corner, just the four of us, playing games, talking, and spending time together. 

Some of the gingerbread creations from one of our parties.

It was through these close friend relationships that I learned how to create and build family outside of my traditional family. I learned to take what I had around me and not only to make the most of it, but build it into something. The exciting part is that in the end, I came to understand that I wasn’t settling for something second-class, but instead I was gaining a new normal that I loved and looked forward to. I looked forward to the new traditions and close-knit feeling for kinship from this group. It was all very special. I truly had a sense of family togetherness with my friends. I learned that friends can be family too! It doesn’t have to mean something is missing from my life, it actually means that something has been added!

I’m really thankful for the friends who have been around me all these years, but surprisingly, family has begun to move close by. Next time I’ll post about how that yet again caused me to shift my family paradigms and learn how to build family with local family.